As we move into the next and succeeding chapters of Isaiah - being now, as I have said, on the positive, the resurrection side, the constructive side of the Cross - we fin that one thing comes very much into view: namely, the recovery of God's testimony in the City and in the nations. That is the key to this section of Isaiah from chapter 54 onward. You will notice that Zion is much in view here. If you run through and circle the words ' Zion' and 'Jerusalem', you will see that that is the center, the focal point of the testimony; but again, the nations are very much in view also. This will come out more fully as we proceed.
We come, then, first, to chapter 55, and we notice two things that mark this chapter.
Abundant Grace, and God's Sure Word
In verses 1-9, we see the freeness and the abundance of grace released to the people of God on this resurrection ground - free and abundant grace. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price ..." How much of the New Testament could be crowded into that!
Then, from verse 10 to verse 13, we have God's sure word: "My word ... shall not return unto Me void." Nowadays, we usually claim that promise from the Lord when we are going to give a message, that His word shall not return to Him void. Of course, the principle is of general application; we are not wrong at any time in taking hold of that, provided that it really is the word of the Lord that we have to deliver. But I want to point out that that is not the particular meaning of the statement here. You will notice the sequence in verses 11 and 12: "So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. FOR ..." (you must stop there) - "FOR ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills ..." and so on. The immediate meaning of the promise of the sure and effectual word is: This people had been promised by God deliverance; they had been assured that the Lord was going to bring them back from captivity. (Compare Isa. 35:10; 48:20; 52:12). He had given His word that they should go out with joy and in peace, in these conditions. That was the word, and that word was not going to fail.
The House of Prayer, and The Need for Meekness
When you come to chapter 56, you find that everything centers in the House of Prayer for all peoples. "Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar: for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples" (verse 7). This is still related to the recovery of the Lord's testimony, and it is to be found in His House - 'My house of prayer.'
In chapter 57, we find some further warnings to the Lord's people against any recurrence of that which had destroyed the testimony before. It seems always necessary for the Lord to say, and to say again: Be careful of the coming back of those old things which wrecked your testimony in the past; the things which (to use Jeremiah's phrase from the potter's house) 'marred' the vessel of testimony. (see Jeremiah 18:4). So He gives here admonition concerning such ever-present perils. Then, in verse 15, the ground of the Lord's presence and committal is mentioned. "For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." These are the conditions of the Lord's presence, those in which His testimony will be reconstituted.
Chapter 58 and 59 are full of more warnings, more admonitions, more instructions, by way of clearing the skies of the clouds that would obscure the testimony. Notice chapter 58, verse 8: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning ..." It is the shining out of this testimony that is governing everything with the Lord. These warnings and admonitions are given in order to bring about the removal of the clouds that are lingering about the sky and trying to obscure the clear shining.
(continued with # 2 - "A Clear Shining Testimony Recovered")